Just three years after the birth of Harrison, my second son, I felt a sudden desire, no, an overwhelming need, to compete in my first triathlon. I was never aware of this urge before, but at 37, the effects of mommy-hood were ruthlessly chipping away at my self-esteem. Drowning in doubt over my skills as a mom, failing to find the meaning of life in dirty diapers and laundry, and watching my body turn into an amorphous blob was more than I could take. I needed to prove myself in some other challenging, productive and exciting way. Together with a few of my closest girlfriends, we registered for the 2004 Danskin Triathlon in Austin, Texas.
Training for the race seemed, at times, as challenging as motherhood itself. But the experience taught me more about myself than I’d ever imagined. The most significant revelation actually led to my writing this blog.
DIVING IN: Here’s what happened. I was 1/2 way into an intense treadmill workout, sweating my babyfat off and feeling the rush of adrenalin, when I was struck by an “Endorphin Epiphany.” I suddenly recognized a striking similarity between triathlons and parenting. Good ole Webster defines Triathon (n.) as “an endurance race combining events in swimming, bicyling, and running.” Leave out any one of these events, and you no longer have a true triathlon. I think parenting is also made up of 3 essential parts: prayer, relationship and learning. Without faith, a healthy connection with your child, or the desire to continue learning, parenting becomes something much less than God designed it to be.
DIVING DEEPER: Breaking the definition down further, endurance can be defined as as the ability to stand pain and race as a competition. Excluding parents entranced with heavy doses of Valium, all would agree that parenting requires unending endurance. And if you consider the war between most parental values and the Hollywood values of mainstream society, it’s pretty clear that parenting has serious competition. In fact, I think parents compete on lots of levels. For example, on the inside, I’m sometimes tormented by by the struggle between my worth as a parent and self doubt. But there are tons of other examples (big and small) such as those of a dad struggling to put a shirt on his squirming infant OR a mom’s “No, you may not!” defended head-on by an emphatic “Just watch me!” Anyway you look at it, parenting just may be counted as the ultimate race.
I invite you register to join me in this race of Triathlon Parenting. It’s tons better to train, race and celebrate with a friend than to try to go it alone.
1 whole rotisserie chicken (cooked and ready to eat)
1 tsp. olive oil
1 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
2 T. lemon juice
1 tsp. chili powder
3 (14.5oz.) cans chicken broth
1 can corn
1 can black beans ~ I also like to use an extra can of beans
1 can pinto beans
2 cups chunky salsa
Salt to taste
** Optional toppings: cheese, avocado, olives, green onion, tomatoes, sour cream
In a large pot, over medium heat saute’ garlic, add shredded chicken and cumin. Saute’ for 5 min. Then add the broth, corn, beans, chili powder, lemon juice, and salsa. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 30min.
When serving: top with crushed chips and other toppings.
*This soup is even better the second day and makes a great gift meal for blessing a friend. (Thank you for sharing, Susie C.!)
No matter how hard I train or prepare for a race, if the weather on race day morning is too hot, too cold, or too wet, the temptation to press Snooze and bag the race altogether is overwhelming. OK, call me the Goldilocks of Sprint Triathlons, but I’ll admit, I’d rather race in conditions that are “just right” than freeze my hiney off. Seriously, on inclement mornings, the cost of writing off the registration fee and the bragging-rights t-shirt seems a small price to pay for a few extra hours of cozy pillow time. However, to my credit, despite the temptations, I’ve never actually bailed on race day. (I’ve got accountability partners to thank for that…more about those later). And I find that once I actually leap into the water to begin the first leg of the tri, I’m glad I stuck with it, after all.
Perseverance is a tough trait to learn and just as hard to teach, but it’s an essential and empowering part of life. Whether you’re a parent tempted to hit the snooze button on a chaotic morning, or you’re trying to keep your discouraged child from quitting a task, sport or project, the rewards for staying the course are invaluable. Here are some strategies for sticking with it:
- Set Goals - WRITE DOWN and keep track of your short term and long term goals. Make them practical, attainable and measurable. Celebrate milestones of accomplishment.
- Pick an Accountability Partner or Two - Find family and friends who are willing to check up on you and ask, “So, how are things going? Are you meeting the goals you set a week ago?” Find someone who has the courage to push you when you need pushing and confront you when you need that, too.
- Breathe in Encouragement - “Encouragement is oxygen to the soul.” This quote by George Matthew Adams is one of many inspirational thoughts captured by John C. Maxwell in his powerful book Encouragement Changes Everything. Soak it in and be ready to face any challenge!
- Embrace Mistakes – If you stumble or even fall, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and move ahead. Celebrate setbacks as opportunities to learn and grow. Teach your kids that mistakes are blessings in disguise. Mistakes are proof we have the courage to attempt new and harder things. Mistakes are what we learn and grow from. Without them, life would be quite boring.
- Put Self Defeating Thoughts In Their Place – What would have happened if The Little Engine that Could bought into the notion that he was not strong enough or powerful enough to face the mountain ahead? That little guy had what it took to succeed, and he was NOT about to let negative, invasive thoughts get the best of him. Every time we push ourselves a little farther, persevere in the midst of struggle and overcome the uncomfortable, we walk away more empowered to embrace LIFE. Isn’t THAT a reward worth racing for?
Berries, peaches, apples, pears, plums, tomatoes, beans, and so much more… they’re in season and begging to be picked. Once you’ve gotten your tummy’s fill, here are a couple of recipes to preserve that fresh taste of summer all year long…These are taken directly from the Ball Blue Book of Preserving, but I also enjoy using much less sugar along with the no-sugar/less sugar pectin-it makes the jams taste more like fruit and less like candy!
4 1/2 cups blueberries
1 package powdered pectin
5 cups sugar
1 T. grated lime peel
1/3 cup lime juice
Crush blueberries one layer at a time. Combine crushed blueberries and powdered pectin in a large saucepot. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Add sugar, stirring until dissolved. Stir in grated lime peel and lime juice. Return to a rolling boil. Boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary. Ladle hot jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Adjust two-piece caps. Process 15 minutes in a boiling-water canner. Yields about 6 half-pints.
3 cups finely chopped, peeled, pitted mangoes
1 1/2 cups crushed red rasperries
2 tablespoon lemon juice
1 package powdered pectin
5 1/2 cups sugar
Combine mangoes, raspberries, lemon juice and powdered pectin in a large saucepot. Bring slowly to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently. Add sugar, stirring until dissolved. Return to a rolling boil. Boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam if needed. Ladle hot jam into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Adjust two-piece caps. Process 10 minutes in a boiling water canner. Yields about 7 half-pints.
Not everyone is comfortable with praying…particularly out loud. I know. I was one of those folks for many years. But along came my kiddos, and from the start, I knew I wanted my children to have a close, interactive relationship with God. I also knew that my husband and I could not do this parenting gig “alone,” so we beefed up our prayer life and turned to our Heavenly Father for guidance and support.
If you have the desire to pray, but are not sure how to begin, here are a few tips to get you going.
- Give thanks. Mealtime blessings are great way to connect as family around the table and offer thanks to God for our food.
- Ask for strength. Silently or out loud, eyes open or closed (it totally doesn’t matter), “Heavenly Father, I’m feeling exhausted and stressed out. Please give me the strength to make it through the day.”
- Ask for perspective. God maintains perfect perspective even when we’re in the midst of ugly. “Lord, help me look past this Terrible Twos Tantrum and see my daughter just as you do, precious and lovable.”
- Say Goodnight. As you lay your child in bed each night, say a soft prayer to help sooth him or her to sleep, thank God for a specific blessing you experienced that day, and ask God for peace and protection during the night.
It may feel uncomfortable at first, but take comfort in knowing there is really no wrong way to pray! And learning to pray is one of the most powerful gifts you can give yourself and your children. Besides, God is never too busy to hear our prayers. In fact, He waits expectantly to hear from us.
Last month, as the summer came to a close, I competed in a sprint triathlon with a great friend of mine. My first tri in 6 years, it was a blast and a real challenge. Flash back to early summer: I had already been training for the Portland to Coast Walk Relay, so I figured it would be a piece of cake to add a little biking, swimming and running to my workouts. OK, seriously, WHAT was I thinking?
One warm, sunny day, I cheerfully set out to ride my bike with my local tri buddies. I was able to keep up with them for the first couple of miles, but when they whizzed by and left me in the dust, I secretly wished for upcoming traffic lights to turn red, just to help me close the gap and save face. “Someone PLEASE tell me this will get easier!” I cried out pathetically to the oncoming traffic. A faint but reassuring voice responded, “It will. I promise. Hang in there.”
Roads of momentary desperation are familiar to most athletes and to virtually every parent who performs athletic feats of toddler chasing, child discipline, multi-tasking, and sleep-deprived decision making. The trick is to not get stuck in the quicksand of the moment. Here are a few ways to drive on and finish strong.
Use your remaining energy to preserve your sanity. As difficult as it seems, if you can look past the ugliness of the present, the Finish Line will come into view. Stop, breathe, and focus on five positive things about your life, your child, or your journey, and use those blessings to improve your attitude about the present challenge.
Refresh your perspective. A child’s tornado-like tantrum can feel like the end of the world, but in the big picture, it’s really just a momentary blip on the radar. Have faith, it will pass. Take precautionary measures to reduce the fallout by keeping your cool and remembering that you are not alone. Temper tantrums are an inevitable test of parental fortitude. Use a life line and phone a friend for help!
Don’t underestimate the abilities of your child. For months you labor in vain to teach your child to use his manners, tie his shoes, stop whining or stop interrupting. Despite your relentless efforts, it seems he will never get it right, and you’re just about to give up when, WHAMO! He executes the moves flawlessly. (Cue the resounding chorus of HALELUIAs). Many times a child’s inability to master a certain concept is not due to hard headedness, but rather young brain development. Be patient and keep planting those seeds. And be on the lookout for another sprout of maturity!
Our bodies (and our children’s bodies) are incredibly complex structures, requiring far better nutrition than most Americans recognize. Sadly, even moms and dads who think they are feeding their families nutritious diets are often fooled by the “healthy” labels on foods that barely meet minimal standards to qualify for that seal of approval. I’m guilty of falling for that clever marketing, particularly when my family’s hectic schedules beg for convenience foods. But I’ve noticed a huge improvement in my family’s energy level, attention span, attitude and general health since adding a dash of discernment to our menu selections.
As a general rule, experts advise that we get back to the basics. The less processed and more natural our food, the better suited it is for our bodies. I’ve become particularly cautious of foods that have artificial colors, chemicals (particularly those I have trouble pronouncing), and high levels of sugar, sodium, and fat. These ingredients have been frequently targeted as culprits behind misbehavior in the classroom, lack of energy on the ball field, irritability, figity-ness, and hyperactivity. (Of course, if your child exhibits any of these behaviors, particularly for an extended period of time, it’s important to consult with their doctor for a more complete assessment).
Our bodies and minds need to be fed wholesome and nutritious food throughout the day to keep us fueled and focused from dawn till dusk. To complicate matters, some bodies are allergic or sensitive to certain foods. So, while I have a few ideas to get you thinking, I encourage you to do a little research or meet with a nutritionist to create a diet that is ideal for for each member of your family.
- BREAKFAST IS CRITICAL After 8-10 hours of no food, our bodies NEED fuel to get up, go and think. PopTarts, sugary cereals and donuts are not going to cut it. Sugars (simple carbohydrates) are used up quickly in our systems, often leaving our bodies even more depleted than before we ate. To begin the day strong, fueled and focused, we need a well-rounded breakfast. Some of my family’s favs: plain oatmeal or hot cereal made with milk and topped with fruit, natural peanut butter on wheat toast, or scrambled eggs on a whole grain English muffin. Do you notice the theme? Simple and complex carbohydrates paired with proteins are a winning combination.
- KEEP THE WATER FLOWING. Our bodies are made up of roughly 75% water. Water is essential for the digestion of food, transportation of nutrients, elimination of wastes, and a host of other metabolic functions. And when we are not hydrated enough, it can interfere with moods, energy, attentions span and a laundry list of other health issues. So, drink up! To help, I make sure my kids carry a bottle of water to school every day, drink water routinely throughout the day, and drink a glass of water before offering juice at mealtime.
- SNACK ALL DAY LONG To maintain energy, brain power and emotional stability all the day long, make sure small snacks (containing carbs and protein) are eaten throughout the day. Note: a package of gummy fruit snacks “fortified with Vitamin C” or a “kid friendly” yogurt in a tube may seem like healthy options, BUT check the label. Sure, they may be healthier than a candy bar or a handful of cookies, but NOT by much! Remember, the goal is not to fill the tummy: it’s to fuel the brain and body!
- THINK NATURAL: Make the switch from processed to natural foods more fun by enlisting your kids in the gathering of colorful fruits and veggies from produce displays, nuts and trail mixes from bulk barrels, and wholesome wheat crackers and breads to be paired with cheese or topped with almond butter. Other possible favorites:
- hard boiled eggs
- homemade granola
- tortilla roll ups with a layer of refried beans or cream cheese and veggies
- ants on a log made with natural peanut butter
Our hectic schedules often have us dining on-the-go, but when hasty eating leads to compromises in nutrition, our bodies suffer and we often see “problem behaviors” skyrocket in our kids. To help your body keep up the demands placed on it, be sure to give it the complete nutrition, rest and exercise it truly needs.
For additional reading on healthy eating, please visit Web-MD:
Child Nutrition and Shopping Tips for Busy Moms: http://www.webmd.com/parenting/child-nutrition-shopping-tips
Simple Healthy Snacks for Kids: http://children.webmd.com/child-nutrition-8/simple-sweet-snacks
Joyful people are a blessing to be around and the kind we long to imitate. To be filled with joy, resilience, and gratitude in any situation is what I pray for my children, but getting there is not that simple. I do know that joy cannot be forced. It’s more like a habit that must be learned and embraced. Similar to appreciation, it’s a mind set that comes naturally when life is going great but hard to find in a fog of disappointment or despair.
As loving parents, we are driven to make life as wonderful for our kids as possible, often shielding them from the tough stuff life throws at us. Ironically, in order to grow rich character and wholesome joy, life’s manure is exactly what we need. So, here are a few ways to love our kids through the muck in order to produce an abundant harvest of joy.
Balance anticipation with disappointment: Sometimes daydreaming about an upcoming vacation can wind up being more exciting than the trip itself, especially when ugly surprises (like bad weather or illness) come along for the ride. Without raining on your own parade, help your family build contingency plans into upcoming events. Encourage everyone to weigh in with suggestions so that each person will be better prepared for the possibility of disappointment.
Put others first: It never fails. You excitedly bring home a mouthwatering pastry from the local bakery, unveil it to the drooling ooo’s and ahh’s of your two children, and tenderly announce that, due to it’s tremendous size, your kids will need to share it. After unappreciative moans erupt from the greedy onlookers, a fight breaks out over who gets to choose their piece first, quickly causing you to regret bringing the darn thing home after all! Here is a recipe for peace and instant equality: ask one child to cut the pastry in half, and let the other child choose his piece first.
Do not get trapped in the Culture of Entitlement: When forced to face reality or partially fend for themselves, disappointment can be particularly shocking to the child who is accustomed to always getting their way or being rescued. When we (parents, teachers and caregivers) cater to a child’s every whim or struggle, we rob them of the chance to grow through the challenge. Instead of giving them what they demand, encourage them to give all they can give. Provide age-appropriate opportunities for them to do for themselves (make their own lunches, make their bed, have sports equipment ready for each game and practice). Teach them how to earn and save money for their wants, and show them the art of problem solving in tricky situations. Of course, use your parental judgement when it comes to keeping them out of real danger, but also be prepared to let go where you are able.
Rejoice in mistakes – they are the spinach of Popeye: Mistakes have a bad reputation. When reviewing graded tests and assignments, parents often zero in on the ones that were missed as the child sulks in embarrassment from across the table. Some children will even quit performing for fear of making mistakes (after all, you can’t get it wrong if you don’t even try). This, by the way, is the gateway to perfectionism- and I have never known a truly joyful perfectionist! Making mistakes is essential to learning, so show your child how mistakes build stronger muscles. Then give them the opportunity to correct their mistakes and demonstrate how they’ve grown.
Inventory the simple things and imagine life without them: It’s easy to take our “little” daily essentials for granted. Electricity, water, a cozy bed, a warm shower…when working, they’re easily overlooked. But once they are unavailable, our appreciation grows immensely. To help your family learn to appreciate even the little stuff, try living like colonial pioneers for a weekend, support a needy family for Christmas or back to school time, sleep on the floor (without a blow up matress!), or just take time to give thanks for your blessings and encourage your family to imagine life without them.
READING is one of the greatest activities you can encourage your kids to do this summer. While finding a good book to read is obviously essential, discovering a SERIES of books can lead to an incredible summer-long adventure. My boys have devoured books since they were old enough to chew on cardboard paged picture books, and below are some of their favorites.
The Magic TreeHouse
Junie B. Jones
Adventures in Odyssey and Passages (Focus on the Family)
The Imagination Station (Focus on the Family)
Percy Jackson and the Olympians
Mysterious Benedict Society
PLEASE comment below to share your childrens’ favorites, too!
These are just a few of the wonderful books out there. If you know of others, please share their titles with the rest of us!
For young girls (this book lays a foundation of Godly traits): His Little Princess by Sheri Rose Shepherd. http://www.christianbook.com/his-little-princess-sheri-shepherd/9781590526019/pd/26016
For tweens and teens: For wonderful resources on modesty and purity, please visit: http://www.purefreedom.org/ . You’ll also be able to check out Secret Keeper: The Delicate Power of Modesty by Dannah Gresh and LIES Young Women Believe: and the truth that sets them free by Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Dannah Gresh while you’re there.
(Special thanks to Susie C. and Clarice T. for your great recommendations!)
Here’s a sample of school-day routines we use in our home. When the boys were younger, they enjoyed checking off each item as it was completed.
o Wake up
o Make bed
o Get dressed
o Eat Breakfast
o Put lunch into lunch box
o Wash face
o Brush teeth
o Play until we leave for school
o Clothes out and ready for tomorrow
o Homework in backpack
o Backpack and jacket next to door
o Brush teeth
o Read in bed until tuck-in